62 Who? Salem Restaurant Celebrates Name Change

Posted: August 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: 62 Restaurant & Winebar, Italian, Mediterranean, Salem, Sixty2 on Wharf | Tags: , | 3 Comments »

We noticed this week that Sixty2 on Wharf has undergone a bit of a re-brand and become 62 Restaurant & Winebar. Our interest piqued, we decided to find out more.

When asked, Chef Antonio Bettencourt responded that the change is not due to an issue with the current brand, but rather a “touch up” of the logo and a recognition that most of the restaurant’s customers refer to it just as “62.”

“I wanted a new look, and I think [the new name and logo] speaks to the simplistic fresh approach we take to our food and the uniqueness of our wine list. That’s also why we added winebar to the name,” he said.

Bettencourt said that 62 has one of the most unique wine lists on the North Shore and possibly in all of Massachusetts. “Some bottles we have you simply can’t find at other places,” he said. “I’m also not sure people know that we serve by the quartino, and we want to put an emphasis on that as well.”

In discussions yesterday on Twitter and Facebook, the response to the change was positive. Diane Wolf, owner of Salem’s Lobster Shanty said, “I think it is a good idea…handmade pasta and wine; is there any better combination?” And reader Geoff Millar echoed the sentiment of others: “I don’t care what they call it as long as they don’t mess with the food.”

To celebrate the new 62, Chef Bettencourt has come up with a fresh three-month promotional dinner series with an international flair. The Passport Series features a $28 prix fixe dinner nightly Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from September through November. Each month will feature culinary inspiration from a different country, and each week concentrates on a different region in that country.

September: Spain
- Barcelona
- Madrid
- Basque region
- Sevilla

October: Italy
- Venice
- Lombardy
- Milan
- Tuscany
- Piedmont

November: France
- Bordeaux
- Alsace
- Ile-de-France (Paris)
- Burgundy

For added incentive, 62 will be issuing “passports” to diners that can be stamped when they complete a meal. Guests who dine once a week for a month, eating from every region, will earn a free prix fixe dinner the next time they come in.

Guests that dine once a month for all three months will be entered to win a free vacation to Europe compliments of 62 and Lynnfield’s Colony Travel. The trip will include a three-night stay and a cooking class at Relais Riserva di Fizzano, Castellina in Chianti. The Riserva di Fizzano is an ancient medieval “bourg” owned by Rocca delle Macie, situated on a hilltop in the Chianti hills, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves.

So if you haven’t dined at 62 lately, it sounds like there are plenty of reasons to return: new identity, new dinner series, and, heck, you may even win a free vacation.

62 Restaurant & Winebar
62 Wharf Street, Salem
(978) 744-0062
www.62Restaurant.com

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Creamy Cool Treats at Hodgie’s

Posted: August 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Amesbury, Hodgie's Ice Cream, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

As the saying goes, man cannot live on cider donuts alone—so after our recent idyllic visit to Cider Hill Farm, we stopped at Hodgie’s for some ice cream. We’d heard quite a bit about this Amesbury stand from friends, and we were not disappointed. The ice cream, handmade on site, is extremely high quality, and there are a number of appealing flavors we don’t often see, including grasshopper, cherry chip, grapenut, and chocolate walnut.

We tried the coffee fudge and the mint oreo cookie; both were excellent. We also sampled the cranberry-raspberry sorbet, which had tons of flavor and was extremely refreshing. Deciding which size to order can be confusing because the portions are truly enormous. One scoop is $2.95, and it’s plenty for one person. Two scoops are $3.80; it would be the equivalent of a large at most ice cream place and just right for sharing.

Two of our group went outside the cone to try the peanut butter bomb  and the crunch ball. Both were $3.25 and very large. The peanut butter bomb is vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and then in peanut butter coating. It was delicious, as was the crunch ball, with vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and dipped in peanut crunchies.

Hodgie’s also serves soft serve ice cream, soft serve frozen yogurt, as well as sandwiches, burgers, and fries. We didn’t get a chance to sample any of them, but we may on our next visit, which will coincide with their famous fall special: cider donut ice cream.

Hodgie’s Ice Cream
1 Haverhill Road (Rt 110), Amesbury
(978) 388-1211
www.hodgies.com

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J Quick Kitchen Lives Up to Its Name

Posted: August 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, J Quick Kitchen, Salem, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | 24 Comments »

Editor’s Note 2/2/11: J Quick Kitchen has changed it’s name to Black Cow Express, but currently maintains the same menu.

Locals were all abuzz when the old KFC building on the Salem side of Vinnin Square started to undergo renovation this summer. The arches on the exterior had some believing that it was going to become a Taco Bell, but the truth was revealed when signs arrived declaring J Quick Kitchen, sandwiches and seafood. This entry into the fast casual arena was created by the owners of the Black Cow restaurants, and it opened this week.

We visited them twice and both times were impressed at how well they lived up to their name. Quick indeed: on the first visit, our food was served in five minutes, and on the return visit, a much larger order to go was handed over in six minutes. Everything was nicely packed and labeled, complete with sauces and plastic-ware—amazing.

The interior is bright, clean, and pleasant with funky lime green accents and large digital displays for menu boards. The abundant staff was perky and welcoming.

The menu features all the standard sandwich shop usual suspects, including a turkey club, a reuben, and burgers, along with fried seafood offerings. It’s clear, however, that J Quick Kitchen strives to offer quality beyond the local sub shop. They roast and carve their own meats, smoke their own pulled pork, and freshly prepare hand-cut french fries.

Our favorites were the J’s Chicken sandwich ($7.50) which featured a grilled chicken breast, hickory bacon, cheddar cheese, and BBQ mayo on a toasted kaiser roll, and the shrimp plate, which was super fresh, sparingly breaded, and a bargain compared to many local places at $12. We also liked the fries, which were thin and crispy. The coleslaw was a bit too soupy.

Another great taste was the house-smoked pulled pork sandwich ($7.50) with North Carolina BBQ sauce. It was unexpectedly savory and smoky and not swimming in sauce. The pressed rueben ($8) was tasty though a bit soggy, and the crispy haddock plate ($11.50) was respectable. The sandwiches are not huge, but they’re filling, and the seafood portions are generous.

We didn’t try the burger, but saw several people enjoying them. The folks down the street at Five Guys may be nervous about competition from the new kid on the block because they arrived en masse for lunch while we were there. (Before they sat down to eat, the manager greeted them warmly and even gave a few of them a kitchen tour.)

Although there are a couple of standard vegetarian options on the menu, a few more creative healthy choices would go a long way to woo those of us who love the fresh approach and convenience but hate the calories involved with most take out.

In an area already chock-full of chain restaurants and fast food, it looks like J Quick Kitchen is using service and quality to set it apart from the pack. We truly were pleasantly surprised by the experience, and while they may still be gauging their customer base, J Quick Kitchen is a fascinating addition to the square.

J Quick Kitchen
2 Paradise Road, Salem
(974) 744-3287
www.jquickkitchen.com

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Peach Perfection at Cider Hill

Posted: August 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Amesbury, Cider Hill Farm, Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

It’s hard not to have a good time on a farm on a sunny August day, but even so, we’ve got to give credit to Cider Hill Farm owners Glenn and Karen Cook—they do it right. From the counterstaff who cheerfully directed us to the pick-your-own peaches to the signs that politely asked us to respect the orchards (rather than scolding us for even thinking of sampling the fruit) to the large, sunny store containing tons of locally-sourced products, Cider Hill is a delight for food lovers.

The place to start your visit to Cider Hill is on the website, where you’ll find a detailed update on what produce is available in the store and to pick on your own. The day we were there, the peach orchards had just opened, and blueberry picking was in progress. Most of the peaches felt quite firm on the trees, but they softened to perfection almost immediately on our countertops. On the way to the orchard, we passed the Cook’s bee-keeping operation just off the main path as well as some of the farm’s gorgeous apple orchards.

After picking as much fruit as we could carry and admiring the view from the top of the hill (vegetable fields, orchards, and far-off wind turbines), we ogled the goodies in the store, including a huge selection of Stonewall Kitchen products, an entire wall of farm-made jams and fruit spreads, and a great selection of gourmet pasta and soup/dip mixes.

We noted many locally made food items such as mini-whoopies from Newburyport’s Chococoa, ice cream from Amesbury’s Hodgie’s, Gloucester’s Boston Chowda lobster bisque, Portsmouth’s Me & Ollie’s bread, granola from Marblehead (Chappaqua Crunch) and Boxford (Boxford Bakehouse), and soynut butter from Simple Food in Amesbury.

Fresh foods include produce from the farm (we bought delicious strawberries from their late-producing crop and incredible butter-and-sugar corn), meat from Butcher’s Gourmet, and a variety of pastries. Our favorite is cider donuts, which are made fresh daily (expect to wait in line during apple-picking season if you want hot ones—but they’re worth it).

Bags of donuts are available to bring home, as are frozen pies made on the farm and honey from the aforementioned bees. An enclosed hive gives a unique look at the daily lives of bees, delighting the less-squeamish among us. More kid-friendly are the outside pens with sheep, goats, and gorgeous red hens (you can buy their eggs in the store, of course). Many folks never think of visiting a farm until autumn, but Cider Hill is open May 5th through November 26th so there’s no need to wait for the fall enjoy the farm. And those delectable peaches are definitely worth the trip!

Cider Hill Farm
45 Fern Ave, Amesbury
(978) 388-5525
www.ciderhill.com

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The Unsung Tastes of Summer

Posted: August 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Bakery, Boston Hot Dog Co., Cafe, Cider Hill Farm, Coven, Green Land Cafe, Jack Tar, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

While it may seem we write about every single thing we eat, that’s obviously not the case. And trust us, you really don’t want to know about all the cold leftovers or bowls of cereal in our lives. However, there have been some unsung tid-bits we’ve enjoyed this summer that deserve mention.

Jack Tar is an unassuming restaurant and pub tucked in behind the storefronts on Washington Street in Marblehead, and on a couple of occasions this summer we have found ourselves enjoying their little patio in the early evening. Our drink of choice? The refreshing Lemon Jack, which is similar to a lemon drop, made with citrus vodka and limoncello. Icy and tart, it’s just the thing to cool you off after a sultry day. Their house-made warm potato chips with bleu cheese, smoked bacon, and scallions are extremely tasty and just the right accompaniment to cocktails.

When a friend requested a stop at Boston Hot Dog in Salem recently, we heartily agreed, fully expecting to order one of their stellar dogs. Upon entering, we noticed the hot pastrami special and decided it warranted further investigation. Man, was that one excellent sandwich. If tender, savory pastrami slow-cooked all day, loaded into a French bread bun with Dijon mustard and a bit of swiss cheese sounds like heaven to you, check this baby out.

Autumn may be when thoughts typically turn to cider doughnuts, but we’ve been obsessing about them this summer, and those from Cider Hill Farm are the objects of our affection. Fresh, light, and cake-y, these old-fashioned doughnuts are coated in cinnamon sugar and simply melt in your mouth. Cider Hill sells them at several farmers markets across the North Shore, but we love them still warm from the bakery at the farm itself.

Another dessert worth seeking out is the dark chocolate bread pudding from Coven. It is dense, not too sweet, and the deep chocolate reminiscent of my grandmother’s homemade hot fudge sauce. This insanely lush treat is so rich we couldn’t finish it all, but it’s the sort of left over that won’t languish long in the fridge.

We have yet to get to the newly opened Green Land Café in Salem for dinner, but we did stop in for lunch last week and were quite impressed by the grilled avocado and crab salad with ginger-lime gastrique. Both the avocado and the crab were super fresh tasting, and the dressing was bright and tangy. This lovely entrée was light yet filling, just right for a summer afternoon.

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Gloucester Goes Gourmet at Duckworth’s Market

Posted: August 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Deli, Duckworth's Beach Gourmet, Gloucester, Marketplace | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Need a night off from cooking? A gourmet picnic to impress a date? How about a great sandwich to take to the beach? Duckworth’s Beach Gourmet could be the answer to all these desires if you’re in the Gloucester area.

There’s a lot packed into this store’s fairly small space, owned by the folks at Duckworth’s Bistro, including wine, prepared foods, gourmet cheese and charcuterie, and gift items. Indeed, we were impressed with the store’s selection of red wines, supplemented by a cold case with white wine, champagne, Ipswich Ale, several other high-end beers, Reed’s ginger ale, and Harney & Sons bottled juices and teas.

Put a bottle of wine with a loaf of Iggy’s bread, a jar of jam, a gourmet mustard (black current dijon sounds good), some wine vinegar, or a bottle of hazelnut or truffle oil, and you’re all set for a hostess gift. If your friend has a sweet tooth, try gourmet tea accompanied by lavender or provence-flower honey, a pretty canister of flavored sugar from local purveyor Didi Davis, a bag of Lark cookies, or a box of Marich candy.

For beachgoers, Duckworth’s has hot and cold sandwiches, containers of potato salad (no mayo) and cole slaw, Deep River Snacks chips, individual desserts, and hand-made sandwich cookies with Captain Dusty’s ice cream (also available by the half-gallon).

Those looking for help with dinner will find containers of roasted tomato soup and marinara and alfredo pasta sauce, fresh uncooked pasta, house-cured salmon, and prepared foods such as flank steak, haricots vert, chickpea burgers, roasted fingerlings, and pasta salad. Hand-made pies are available most days; go early for the best selection.

The deli case is filled with a charcuterie-lover’s dream: serrano ham, prosciutto, and speck from La Quercia alongside pancetta, sopressata, and salameto from Fra’Mani. The cheese selection is extensive, ranging from chevre from Topsfield’s Valley View Farm to New England-sourced Cabot clothbound cheddar, Champlain Valley Creamery triple creme and Seal Cove chevre. Imported selections include raclette, morbier, robiola, and Delice de Borgone.

We stopped in last weekend after brunch at Sugar Mags just to see what was on offer, but we plan to return for sandwiches and treats the next time we head for Good Harbor Beach—seagulls, stay away, please.

Duckwoth’s Beach Gourmet
24 Washington Street, Gloucester
(978) 282-1414
www.duckworthbeachgourmet.com

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Morning Decadence: Gloucester’s Sugar Mags

Posted: August 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, brunch, Cafe, Gloucester, Sugar Magnolias | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Carrot cake for breakfast? We came pretty close at Sugar Magnolia’s last weekend—and loved every bite. Along with several savory dishes, we ordered the full stack of carrot cake pancakes with maple cream cheese butter (3 for $6). The pancakes were huge and full of flavor, and the cream cheese was a delicious, frosting-like spread.

It’s hard to beat that level of indulgence, but our other meals came close. We tried the Western Ave and the East Main omelettes. The former contained linguica, onion, pepper, and American cheese; the latter had spinach, tomatoes, bacon, and swiss cheese. Both were large, perfectly cooked, and accompanied by hash browns and toast for $7.50.

The veggie scramble was an abundance of tender-but-not-mushy broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, and (our choice) goat cheese, a marvelous combination. With toast and home fries, it was $8 and more food than one person could eat. The crab cake “bene” ($10) was superior to most we’ve had, with two very crisp yet light crab cakes, perfectly poached eggs, and a light, flavorful sauce.

We also tried the pineapple fritters, which came with a delicious brown sugar dipping sauce. They were crisp outside but a bit soggy inside, due to the pineapple. Next time, we’ll go right for the carrot cake pancakes to satisfy our sweet tooth.

The service was attentive, relaxed, and friendly, with as many refills as we desired on our bottomless cups of coffee ($1.50). Note that with food and service this good, there tends to be a wait on weekend mornings. Our wait was 15 minutes on Sunday just before noon—and well worth it.

Sugar Magnolia’s
112 Main Street, Gloucester
(978) 281-5310
www.sugarmags.com

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Amesbury’s Neighborhood Bistro Offers Unique Flavors

Posted: August 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, Amesbury, Bistro, Phat Cats Bistro, Seafood | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Amesbury is a bit off our beaten path, but we recently met up with some of our favorite local food bloggers for dinner, and it proved a great gathering location. We decided to check out Phat Cats Bistro on Market Street and were in very good company with Jane of Food and Fiction, Laura of The Two Palaverers and Mary of Cooking 4 the Week whom we thank for some of the photos.

Phat Cats has been open for almost three years now and is run by husband and wife chefs Christina Johnson and Paul Eastman. They locally source as much of the produce and seafood they can, dependant on the season. The dining room is casual and comfortable, with warm tones, exposed brick, several chalkboards sporting specials, and a full bar along one wall. The cocktail list was fun, the wine list included some great picks, and our drinks were generously poured.

We started with several appetizers to share. The lobster rangoon was appealing, but the texture was unexpected. The filling was more liquid than traditional rangoons, and the tubular shape of the pastry made them a bit splurty ($9). The calamari was crisp and flavorful, accented nicely by the chipotle dipping sauce ($8). The haddock cake was light, moist, and savory ($8).

The entrées are varied, and several are offered as full or half portions. The seafood crepe was a surprise, as we envisioned a French style crepe with a cream sauce, but it was more Southwestern, with fresh corn, tomatoes, and spinach surrounding large bits of lobster and scallops. It was served with a bruleed savory corn pudding that was lovely ($16/22). The bistro steak, an herb crusted hangar steak ($18), was very tasty, and the surf and turf risotto (tenderloin beef tips and wild shrimp served over caramelized onion sausage risotto) was wonderfully complex and the favorite at the table ($24).

The veal saltimbocca special ($19) and the herb gnocchi gratin ($11/16) were less successful. Although obviously prepared with care from quality ingredients, the final product somehow lacked zip.

The junior member of our party was quite pleased with her mac and cheese, ordered with the optional shrimp. The pasta was firm and not overwhelmed by the rich cheese, and the shrimp were good-sized and moist. ($13/18)

Most of us were too sated for dessert, but we did try the homemade coconut pudding accompanied by a brownie. Both were excellent, the pudding rich and lightly sweet.

While not every entrée was spectacular, we enjoyed our visit overall, aided by the friendly, helpful staff and the unique flavor combinations on the menu.

Phat Cats Bistro
65A Market Street, Amesbury
(978) 388-2777
www.phatcatsbistro.com

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